Thanks to the lovely Cara for pre-reading!


20.

Still frowning, Isabella moves away from the glass art and to the windows, staring down at the street below. She's not sure how long she stands there, but she's so lost in her own thoughts that she doesn't notice Edward come up. She can't help the small flinch she gives when he's suddenly there, beside her.

"Guess you got bored, huh?" Edward smiles apologetically. "Got a little carried away. Sorry about that. Maggie's just putting on the finishing touches and we'll leave."

He leans against the wall on the other side of the window, gazing through the glass. The sunlight turns Edward's skin gold, lighting up the side of his face with a soft glow, bringing out the green in his eyes. Edward's dimples are deep shadows in his face as he stares out the window at the street, his lips barely upturned in a small smile. Isabella stares at him, trying to pull up the irritation and hatred she feels for him to the forefront of her mind.

It's harder than it should be.

After he and Maggie haggle over prices for a bit—she kept trying to go lower; Edward insisted that it doesn't count as a gift if he gets it practically for free—she walks them downstairs and through the antique shop.

"So, I'll bring the check with me when I pick up the gift. Same time as usual?"

Maggie looks down at the sketchbook she's still holding in her hands. "Yeah. This shouldn't take me any longer than that." She grins up at him. "Your requests are always unique, but not too difficult."

Edward smiles back at her and gives her hug goodbye before they leave. "Say hello to Liam for me. Tell him I think the extra garage is a greatidea."

She slaps his arm with the sketchbook. "Oh, just get out of here." She turns to Isabella. "It was nice meeting you. You should come back some time, let me design something for you."

Isabella takes her hand. "I just might. You are a fantastic artist, Maggie." She gives Maggie her most charming grin and Maggie's face goes red. She honest-to-God blushes and for a moment Edward thinks Isabella must have some kind of superpower. He's never seen Maggie flustered in all the seven years he's known her. Then Edward recalls a brief flash of Isabella laughing, head thrown back and eyes closed, lines crinkling around her eyes and, well, he gets it.

He's starting to understand that sometimes it's impossible not to be flustered around Isabella.

Goodbyes said, Maggie heads back upstairs to her workshop, and the pair wave goodbye to Siobhán, still sitting in the rocking chair. Outside the shop, they're quiet. Edward awkwardly shoves his hands into his pockets as he walks to the car, suddenly feeling self-conscious. While in the workshop he'd been too occupied with planning his mom's present to think about Isabella and how he'd forced her into being with him. He was so excited about his ideas and seeing Maggie again that he forgot, when he'd introduced her, that Isabella wasn't a friend, wasn't even someone who liked Edward.

Now, with Isabella walking silently beside him, pensive frown on her face, Edward feels highly aware of those facts.

"Why'd you call me Isabella?"

Edward stops. "What?"

"Inside. When you were introducing me to Maggie, you gave her my name instead of Irina's. Why?"

Was that what Isabella was frowning about? Edward had thought the woman would be glad to go by her own name for once.

"Maggie's my secret," Edward explains.

Isabella looks at him, confused. "Huh?"

He smirks. "No one in my family knows who Maggie is. The first time I ever gave my mom a present from there, she kept trying to get the name of who made it for me. I knew, from the way she loved it, that she wanted to buy more from her. But if she could buy the figurines herself, what would be the point of me giving them to her? So, I never told her, or anyone else in my family." Edward shoots Isabella a sidelong glance. "You've probably noticed that nobody can keep their mouth shut in my family. It didn't matter if she knew who you really were because she doesn't talk to my family, though she knows about them, and they don't talk to her, even though they know she exists."

Edward doesn't mention that it was nice, not having to lie to someone. That he could smile and introduce Isabella, not the woman Isabella was pretending to be. Nor does he talk about how all the lying is getting to him, that he can't stand the thought of trying to fool one more person he cares about.

Instead he shrugs and keeps talking about Maggie. "It's more of a joke between us than anything. If she really wanted to find out who made them, it wouldn't be too hard. Not many people around who have talent like Maggie's."

Isabella nods and starts walking again. "Yeah. I'm surprised she isn't up in New York somewhere, with her own art gallery doing commissions for rich people."

"She was."

Isabella stares at him in surprise, and Edward lifts one shoulder, grinning. "Maggie's the best kept secret around here. She was a big hotshot artist in New York City years ago. Her work was featured in several magazines and art journals, shown off in some of the most famous houses along the East Coast. Liam was her manager. That's how they met. Eventually she got tired of the big city and they moved back out here to Port Angeles, where she was born."

They've reached the car and Edward unlocks the front door as he continues speaking. "She made enough money off her art that they can both live in retirement. Now, she only does a few commissions here and there, mostly as favors for friends. What you saw up there? Was actually her personal collection. None of it's for sale." They get into the car and Edward starts it. Isabella's looking through the car window at the second floor of the antique shop.

"She must really love her work," Isabella muses thoughtfully.

Edward chuckles. "Yeah. She's no cynical, disillusioned artist. She just loves playing with glass. She'd give me my stuff for free if she could, but I insist on paying, even if it is less than a tenth of what it's worth. I mean, it's for my mom, you know?"

He looks over at Isabella as he pulls out of the parking lot to see her eyeing him with an expression Edward can't make out, and he shifts uncomfortably in the seat, realizing he's been rambling on for a while now. He coughs. "Anyway. Now that we're done here I thought we'd go see Quil and Leah."

"Great. After Jake I'm just dying to meet more of your friends."

Edward flicks her a surprised glance, seeing her glowering out the window again and smirks. "Well, I'm sure you'll love them. They're the best friends a man could ask for."

"Right," Isabella says sarcastically.


See you next time!

-Jess